A mature read for a Runescape player of between 12-14 years of age.
Runescape: Betrayal at Falador written by T.S. Church is based within the World of Gielinor created for the computer game "Runescape". Runescape is a fantasy based massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) played by millions of people across the globe. Having been a regular player of Runescape since 2006 (though recently lapsed), I was naturally curious to compare the book to the game it draws it's inspiration from.
Runescape: Betrayal at Falador opens on a stormy night when a semi-conscious girl seemingly materialises out of thin air by the gates to the castle of the White Knights, guardians of Falador. The arrival of the enigmatic Kara-Meir coincides with a spate of horrific killings plaguing the surrounding Kingdom of Asgarnia and heralds the unconscionable: proof a traitor has surfaced amongst the infallible order of White Knights themselves. By enlisting the help of Theodore, a squire to the White Knights, Kara-Meir embarks on a quest of self-discovery, gathering a band of allies to her possessed of various skills that aid her in her objective. Her journey brings her into conflict with both the mysterious killer and the Kinshra, an order of evil chaos warriors responsible for tragedy in her past life. When the Kinshra bombard a hapless monastery testing out new weapons, the destruction of key records deprives Kara-Meir of vital clues to her past. This act reaffirms her vow to destroy the Kinshra, and when she learns they are bound for Falador to destroy the city and the order of White Knights, she rallies all the forces she can muster to prevent the catastrophe and to seek revenge. As the siege of Falador begins, the traitor finalises measures to ensure the Kinshra achieve total victory.
With such a popular and well established game-world to draw upon and the sleeve notes hinting at an exciting storyline, how does the book measure up? To use a cake analogy, whilst it contains all the essential ingredients it still went flat in the oven. Runescape the game manages to strike a balance between sufficient complexity and maturity for adults whilst providing content which appeals to the younger players that form the bulk of its player demographic. Of the several features that distinguish it from other MMORPG's, fundamental is the very British sense of humour which permeates throughout the game. This sets the tone for the whole Runescape experience which, much like a Pratchett novel never threatens to take itself too seriously. On the contrary, it continually pokes gentle fun at itself and the genre. Crucially, R:BAF fails to incorporate this vital element opting instead for a serious approach to the narrative. This renders the few humorous elements remaining from the game (basically some character names) as nothing more than incongruous curiosities. This omission is a critical error in my estimation because R:BAF was clearly written to appeal to the Runescape fan. Yet because the book fails to capture the essential self-deprecating charm of the game, it instead becomes something slightly pompous and clich�d - the kind of material that would be ripe for the game to take a swipe at. Unhappily the author also neglects to fully accommodate the casual reader by excluding background context for the various characters of Runescape as they are introduced into the narrative. This is an oversight since otherwise you can only become familiar with them and their relevance to the Runescape world by playing the game.
One of the more ironic idiosyncrasies is that the betrayal alluded to in the title is rendered nothing more than a sub-plot by the one actual redeeming feature of the book - namely the battle sequences surrounding the siege of Falador. This is the strongest section by far and alludes to T.S. Church's obvious enthusiasm for the subject matter (frankly, the book should have been more accurately titled Runescape: Battle for Falador). Apart from the battle sequence, the rest of the novel comprises an overly familiar formulaic progression: person on a quest, band of followers (the strong one, the magic one, the practical one, the noble one etc.), tasks to prove worth, win the day against insurmountable odds, betrayer gets comeuppance, slaps on back with mead and muffins all round (Huzzah)! There are a number of other petty annoyances which can doubtless be attributed to a combination of inexperience and sloppy editing by the publisher. Certain plot elements are only introduced into the narrative at the point they are revealed to be important, the flow of the book is disrupted by excessive use of chapters (seventy-seven in four hundred odd pages!) and improper use of scene breaks, some questionable grammatical usage, etc.
So in terms of appeal, where does this leave the book? Unfortunately it doesn't really lie comfortably anywhere except in the category of pulp fantasy fiction. Anyone placing very modest demands on their fantasy literature would probably be sufficiently entertained for the duration and move on. The book is just a little too basic to be considered a satisfying read for most adult readers familiar with the fantasy genre. To reiterate, I feel it would also fail to appeal to anyone unfamiliar with the game. Consequently it would best be considered a mature read for a Runescape player of between 12-14 years of age looking for a book analogous in tone (though not equivalent) to the brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl or perhaps Harry Potter.
To be fair to the author, it's a tough undertaking to successfully work within the strictures of a framework defined by a third party. When one considers the number of other derivative works such as books based upon films, films based on video games etc. only those people with a proven track record establishing their own work tend to successfully interpret the work of others - leaving the rest of the offerings to languish in a sea of mediocrity. Whether T.S. Church was engaged to expand the Runescape franchise or was self-motivated to contribute to it (I suspect the latter), he evidently threw himself into the undertaking with commendable enthusiasm. It's unfortunate that his inexperience coupled with the inherent constraints of working within the well-established Runescape format combine to hobble his inaugural novel. Certainly his battle writing prowess augurs well for future tales though, if based within the Runescape world, I doubt I would bother to read them myself.
Review by Colin Templeman
3 positive reader review(s) for Betrayal at Falador
Kyle Whisper from Scotland
Played RuneScape for 6 years, and when I finally read this, it was really easy and understanding to read, as I knew most of the characters already and the places they went to, and the story was fantastic, it was like a long lasting quest, the characters were well written, especially Kara-Mier, who I hope one day appears in-game. This, along with the sequels - Return to Canfis and Legacy of Blood are worth reading, and it can also good way to introduce new players to the game.
A Buk Lau from China
I do play Runescape and this book makes playing more intense to play. If you enjoy fantasy then you should really playh the game and read the book. The bouk is interesting to read, you should really read it if you are interested in fantasy. Thank you for reading this review.
James from London
I have recently finished reading Betrayal at Falador and as a fantasy fan and not hugely familiar with the Runescape game world I have to say I thought it was an excellent read. I won't delve to deeply into the plot but it was very well constructed and I found it to be a real page turner. The main characters were developed enough to keep you interested and actually surprised me especially during a particularly poignant scene towards the end which I won't go into due to spoilers. All in all definitely worth a read and if they do release another which I hope they do I will be reading it.
8.4/10 from 4 reviews